With rapid growth of the digital age and expansion of internet connectivity, people suffering from mental disturbances have started to seek online counseling and psychotherapy. This form of therapy has increased in popularity for many reasons, but primarily because it is more attractive to shy people, people who have reservations about the therapy process, or individuals with social anxieties.
However, much of this “Internet of Therapy” has either been done for free, or through cumbersome credit, debit, or payment methods that lack the multifaceted functionality and security of blockchain technology. The adaptability of programmable money in E-counseling is thus a novel area of innovation that has not been incorporated into current platforms, but it should become a cornerstone in the e-counseling ecosystem for a couple of reasons, especially in terms of micro-payments and fraud prevention.
Current E-Counseling Platforms and Costs
One such online counseling program is Talkspace. Applications like this are much cheaper than traditional therapy. For instance, Talkspace charges on a weekly basis, whereas face-to-face psychotherapy sessions can cost upwards of $200 dollars per session. A Business Insider article that reviewed Talkspace elaborated:
“Cost is also a factor. In comparison to traditional therapy, which is sometimes covered by insurance and can range anywhere from $20 to $250 per session (sessions are usually once a week and last about 45 minutes), Talkspace costs $25 per week.”
Even though they are cheaper than traditional therapies, Talkspace and other applications, like BetterHelp and 7 Cups of Tea (which is free), have not incorporated micro-payment systems or digital cryptocurrencies into their functionality. If the companies who developed these platforms started accepting Bitcoin and micro-payments for their counselors, they could efficiently work with a multitude of people for pay, and use escrow services or multiple signature verification. They could also capture a whole new market and customer base, who are privy to using digital currencies for the services they seek.
Micro-payments are one capability of cryptocurrency that would show strength in the online counseling environment. Instead of having a customer risk placing all of her personal debit information and credentials into a system potentially prone to fraud, they could simply use public-key cryptography with Bitcoin for quick and safe micro exchanges.
Even the “free” platforms like 7 Cups of Tea could generate a small bit of revenue for their Trained Listeners without having to promote themselves as professionals. The people who contribute as Listeners could generate payments via an application without having to expend time or energy inputting data from a bank or card. The same could be said for those who need a listener. It would be simple, lucrative, and powerful.
Luckily, there are several applications that run off of Blockchain technology that allow users to setup addresses to receive these micro payments without the hassle of antiquated and weak, central-banking based technologies. It is amazing that the features and cryptocurrency have not been widely adopted by e-counselors and listeners, even though there are downsides to the technology due to its newness.
Micro-Payment Platforms for E-Counseling
One possible Micro-Payment system for e-counselors to use with Bitcoin is the BitcoinJ micro-payments API (Application Programming Interface). However, to use the API one has to be familiar with coding in order to setup a “server” and “client” micro-payment system. This is a brief description of the service from BitcoinJ’s website:
“Starting from bitcoinj 0.10, you can use payment channels to implement various kinds of metered billing application. We provide a sub-library that implements a client/server protocol for this, along with an example client/server app showing how easy it is to use. Because payment channel technology is still new and experimental, if you wish to use it please get in touch with us first and let us know what you’re doing, so we ensure you keep up as the code evolves.”
There are also less tech savvy ways to set up programmable micro-payments for e-counselors.
ChangeTip is a web program that allows you to send and receive micro payments with relative ease. However, there is a downside. They use an online web wallet to store Bitcoins. This means that it has the same pitfall as any other centralized service or bank: a single point of failure. If the service were to get hacked or compromised, a person could potentially lose all of their coins. But the simple, yet annoying fix to this problem is to constantly send earnings to a more secure wallet.
It appears that there needs to be more innovation in the micro-payment systems so it can be used more easily for transferring trustless payments to e-counselors without a headache or risk of compromise.
Nonetheless, Bitcoin can still be adopted and used efficiently for online therapists and counselors. Even if the micro-payment system is still a bit cumbersome, it has evolved years ahead of the current centralized banking systems for payment. It is the undisputed heavyweight champion. It mitigates the risk of theft or fraud. A person does not have to trust a central bank. Payments can be made overseas and across borders without any stifling overhead or bureaucracy.
If e-counselors go ahead and accept bitcoin they will benefit greatly, and their use of this technology will grow as it continues to develop. Micro-payments and aforesaid benefits are only the tip of the iceberg, though. The ease of use, security, dependability, and genius of the technology will allow the e-counseling ecosystem to thrive as it ushers psychotherapy into a new age of helping the depressed, disabled, and dissatisfied. And everyone knows, the helping professionals deserve every cent they earn.
Will Bitcoin adoption for E-Counseling help revolutionize the industry and further expand innovation?
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